The ACB says it has made progress on its investigation into allegations that State House abused public funds by paying inflated bills at Crossroads Hotel for guests whose mission in Malawi remains a mystery.
In October last year, reports emerged indicating that State House ‘hosted’ ghost visitors at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe in a syndicate meant to defraud the public purse.
Invoices that circulated on social media showed that State House paid the hotel over K50 million in bills and, following public pressure, the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) promised to investigate the matter.
In an interview yesterday, both acting ACB director Elias Bodole and senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala indicated that the investigation is at an advanced stage.
Bodole said the investigations are almost complete except for one issue they need to resolve.
He said: “We found that there were issues worth investigating and now it is up to the investigation to reveal if there is an issue we can go to court with …but there were indeed issues worth investigating and we are treating this matter with the urgency it deserves.”
Bodole stressed that “it is not a big issue” that is remaining but they are doing it to be thorough in their investigation.
On her part, Ndala corroborated her boss’ statement, saying the investigation was at an advanced stage.
When the news broke that State House had blown over K50 million in hotel expenses for four alleged Israeli visitors who came into the country for undisclosed business, both State House and Crossroads Hotel dismissed the reports as fake.
However, in a twist of events, Crossroads Hotel withdrew its earlier position and told The Nation that it had received a K12.5 million cheque from State House.
One of the directors at Crossroads Hotel, Sameer Sacraine, in an earlier interview confirmed that four international guests—whose nationalities he could not identify—were booked at their hotel for over a month for unknown business.
He said the four were booked by Miguel Elias of Chitundu Distributors in Blantyre.
Sacraine said the guests—who included Elias—had booked suites worth $300 per night and stayed in them for eight days before moving into cheaper ones ($90) for the rest of the days up to a month.
Our calculations, based on Sacraine’s admission, showed that if the visitors booked four rooms at $300 per night for eight days and at $90 dollars per night for 30 days—cumulatively the bill came up to about $35,500 (K27 million).
But Sacraine only confirmed K12.5 million as the amount that was paid through a State House cheque, saying Elias settled the rest of the bills in cash.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said it is frustrating that the ACB takes time to conclude investigations.